Efforts to topple President Donald Trump by accusing him of collusion with Russia may have backfired on the Democrats, but in one major respect they have won: Republicans now treat Moscow as the bogeyman too.
Last week, Trump approved the release of a four-page memo compiled by the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee. It accused the FBI and Justice Department of obtaining a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign based on a dodgy dossier assembled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, without disclosing he was paid by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Fox News host Sean Hannity went a step further on Monday evening, saying the Steele dossier was “filled with Russian lies,” calling it “fake news Russian propaganda.”
“Steele was using Russian sources to help them smear then-candidate and later on incoming President Donald Trump,” Hannity said. Strangely, committee chair Devin Nunes (R-California) agreed.
“We have a clear link to Russia. You have a campaign who hired a law firm, who hired Fusion GPS, who hired a foreign agent, who went and got information from the Russians on the other campaign. It seems like the counterintelligence investigation should have been opened up against the Hillary campaign when they got a hold of the dossier,” Nunes told Hannity.
“There is clear evidence of collusion that the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign colluded with the Russians,” he added.
Now where have we heard this before? Oh yes: back in October, when Trump commented on the reports that the Clinton Foundation received bribes in exchange for Hillary approving the 2010 sale of US uranium mines to a Canadian company owned by the Russian corporation Rosatom.
It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2017
It is unclear where and when Steele’s anonymous, maybe even nonexistent, sources in Russia somehow morphed into deliberate Russian misinformation.
The great irony of all this is that the charge of “Russian collusion” was first made by the Clinton campaign in the heated final stretch of the 2016 campaign, and then revived after the election to help explain her shocking defeat.
‘Shattered,’ a book about the Clinton campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes published in April 2017, revealed that the plan to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss was hatched by campaign chairman John Podesta and manager Robby Mook, “within twenty-four hours” of her calling Trump to concede.
For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.
While one can understand why Democrats have continued flogging that particular dead horse, many Republican hawks in Congress have eagerly embraced the Russian bogeyman. Last March, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) infamously accused his colleague Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) of “working for Vladimir Putin,” after Paul objected to Montenegro’s membership in NATO.
More recently, Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) claimed “Russians and their troll farms” were fanning the flames of discontent over the kneeling protests at NFL games. That, admittedly, might be because he paid too much attention to Russia-haters running the “Hamilton68 Dashboard” that accuses Moscow of _any_ Twitter trend.
I’ll note again: virtually every claim about Russian Twitter activity now taken as Gospel by US media comes from a new, secretive group of Bill Kristol, CIA officials, Marco Rubio’s guru, & Dem neocons: Hamilton68. Their every pronouncement is deemed Truth https://t.co/iKjKyJc0Xypic.twitter.com/zb03qRwHEI
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 7, 2018
Even as Trump supporters point out that “Russian collusion” story has done the Democrats no favors, the establishment Republicans are all too eager to embrace it. Hillary Clinton may have served up this particular poisoned apple, but there is no denying that the Washington swamp really likes the taste.
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